A few weeks ago, I started what I plan to be a series of posts on how some of my favorite yogis go about establishing a personal practice. I couldn’t be more excited to highlight one of the teachers I respect the most – Cory Bryant.

The amazing Cory Bryant.

The amazing Cory Bryant.

When I think of Cory, the word “dedicated” immediately comes to mind. His commitment is impressive. Exhibit A – notice that a good amount of his practice comes before he teaches…at 6:30 in the morning! (Right about the time I am hitting my third REM cycle).

My mind tends to work in a series of continuous transitive property equations: Cory’s practice is intense + I admire and respect Cory enormously = my practice should be like Cory’s.

Not so!

The idea behind this series of posts is to highlight a diversity of practices – all of them potentially valid and effective. If something resonates for you, try it! If not, on to the next. Or, better yet, come up with something entirely on your own.

Our yoga mats, meditation cushions — our whole lives, really — are opportunities for us to experiment with our practice. So, maybe we should approach creating a personal practice as a scientist rather than a copycat. That’s really the only to determine what will work in our individual circumstance.

In the meantime, check out Cory’s practice for some inspiration:

What, exactly, does a daily practice look like for you?

First thing each morning, I do a puja, which involves chanting with incense and japa meditation, to honor the teachers that have come before me and to set my mind toward uplifting other beings with my actions. Then I have my coffee and do a bit of yoga text reading.

After teaching, usually from 6:30 – 7:30 AM, I do my Ashtanga mysore practice, which takes approximately two hours. It is an asana based practice with a focused effort to integrate the other seven limbs of the raja yoga path.

Would you define your practice as largely spiritual or largely physical? A balance of both?  

Both — my feeling is that these two are intimately linked.

If your practice is one that encompasses spirituality, why is it spiritually meaningful for you?

Spirit is meaningful to me because it takes the physical practice and ramps it up through commitment, devotion, humility, vulnerability and strength to recognize that we are spiritual beings granted a human body that allows us to explore beyond the physical.

How long have you been doing this practice?  

I’ve been doing the specific practice described above for about 18 months. Prior to that I was working a full time+ job with the Food and Drug Administration, so the schedule was different. But it still included the same content.

How did you determine that this was the right practice for you? 

I started practicing Jivamukti Yoga in 2002 and my practice has revolved and evolved around its core since that time. Jivamukti is heavily grounded in Ashtanga, so it has felt like a natural progression for me to practice mysore (self-led). I’ve known almost from the beginning that it was the right practice for me because it challenged me to see myself and the world from other’s perspectives and to become more tolerant, more patient, more open, more compassionate, more vulnerable – transformed.

Has your practice changed over time? 

It has changed in that, for many years, I attended led classes (Jivamukti and Ashtanga mostly). About six years ago, I started practicing mostly at home and on the road (because I was traveling a lot).

Part of the evolution of my practice is that it has become more spiritual and more holistic. Asana is my foundation and I have steadily integrated the other seven limbs into my practice, even while on the mat.

What happens if you skip a day? (Or week? Or month?)

I haven’t missed more than a week for several years. When I have, it’s been because I was sick enough that I just couldn’t muster the focus. When I do miss a day or two, I feel it. But, I have learned to use those times to practice in other ways – sometimes just simply taking notice of my mind and whether I’m paying attention to the moment. Practice comes in many forms and it is a waste of time to be hard on one’s self – I try to remember that.

What would you suggest to others who are trying to develop their own practice?  

Show up!  Don’t let your practice be defined by your physical ability on any given day – yoga has so much more to offer. So, whether it’s taking five minutes to be still and breathe, just do it. Show up and be in it. And, if you are going to make the effort to show up, don’t do it half-assed. Let the distractions go and plug in.

I adore Cory. His classes are amazing. Those assists, though. They are truly the stuff of legends! If you are in the DC area and have a chance, don’t miss experiencing it for yourself. You can find Cory at Flow Yoga Center. He also lays down some pretty rad wisdom in this post.